This is part 3 of a series of posts on leadership. Part 1 was an introduction and brief definition of leadership. Part 2 was on the levels of leadership.
In this post we’ll begin our investigation of the qualities great leaders demonstrate. Not every great leader possesses all these things, but they are recurring among those we commend as great leaders.
Great Leaders Are Visionary
Here’s a crucial truism to file away. Get ready for it because it’s important — Leaders lead. You can always tell who a leader is because people follow. If no one is following, you’re not a leader, you’re just going for a walk.
In order to lead, the leader has to go somewhere. Yeah, I know this all appears obvious and pedantic. Sadly, these are things lost on many so-called leaders today. Even people who started out as good leaders can get diverted by the tyranny of the urgent from the very things that made them great leaders.
So, I say it again; in order to lead, the leader has to go somewhere. Where the leader is going is drawn from his/her vision.
Even secular leadership material talks about the importance of vision. But when we refer to leadership and vision, we mean something very different. In the work of God’s Kingdom, a vision is a Spirit-inspired picture of a better future.
Let me break that down.
A vision comes from the Spirit of God. It’s birthed in the heart of the leader. It’s the core and seed of his/her calling.
It’s a picture. That’s why it’s called a vision. But it’s seen with the eyes of faith; the eyes of the heart and mind. A vision may at first be just a rough outline without much detail; a general direction. But as time goes by and progress is made, it gets clearer.
It’s of a better future. If it’s not better, why go? It’s this better future that makes the vision inspiring and moves people to want to follow the leader.
This is crucial; the Holy Spirit births a vision in a person, not a committee. A group may later be called INTO the vision; they may see bits and pieces of where they can contribute. But the overall vision belongs to the leader God calls to take the lead in pursuing it.
This is the story of Abraham. God told him to leave Ur and move to a land He’d show him. Abraham shared that vision and others joined. He headed west and as the journey unfolded, he eventually settled in Canaan.
Paul had a vision of taking the Gospel to others and planting churches. As he went, God directed his steps. Did Paul know everything he’d do when he was first called out in Antioch? No. But as he faithfully took the steps God set before him the vision became clearer and others were called alongside to assist him in making the vision reality.
The Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 is all about Vision.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
I want to repeat something I said before. Vision is originally birthed in the heart of an individual; not a group, a committee, a board. It should spread to others; but that’s not its inception. In Scripture, a vision is imparted to a person. What makes that person a leader is when they share it with others and it becomes theirs too. It’s important to stress this because we hear of churches and groups who get together to come up with a Vision and Mission statement. They’ve read some leadership material and hear about the importance of vision and think by calling together some sharp people they can hammer out some marching orders for the future. Hey, they may come up with some great ideas, but it won’t be what we mean by “Vision” with a capital “V.” Only God imparts that kind of vision and He gives it to the person He calls to lead.
Great leaders have a Vision.
Imparting the vision leads to the next mark of a great leader . . .
Great Leaders Are Good Communicators
Great leaders are able to communicate well with their followers. Their first task is to be clear about where they’re going. The leader is able to duplicate the vision in the minds and hearts of his/her followers. This is one of the reasons why in 1 Timothy 3:2 Paul says elders must be “apt to teach.” The word elder and pastor are virtually synonymous in the New Testament; they’re leaders of God’s flock. They’re to lead BOTH in,
1) The Word of God, and
2) The unique vision God’s given them to pursue as they serve Him.
The leader simply MUST give those following a good reason to do so. If there isn’t a good reason, they ought to follow a leader who has one.
I end this post by inviting my fellow pastors to a moment of reflection on how clearly you’ve articulated your vision to the people you’re leading. Do they know where you’re going? For that matter, do you? Have you taken the time to verbalize in cogent form where people will end up if they follow you as you follow Jesus?
Everyone gets fired up about certain things. One of the marks of great leaders is that what MOST fires them up is any and everything that pertains to their vision. They have a sense of mission that drives them. They identify themselves in terms of what they know they are called to do. And the doing has become part of their being. It oozes form every pore.
As we head into the end times the challenge before the local Church is great. Now is the time for leaders to focus in on what they’re called to be about. Share the vision and pursue it with all you’ve got.